NVC - Non-Violent Communication

Understanding NVC

What is non-violent communication?

Sometimes referred to as compassionate communication, non-violent communication is a system which aims to promote non-violence in all aspects of life, starting from the way we communicate with one another. The idea behind non-violent communication – or NVC, for short – is that it will promote higher levels of empathy and compassion among people who adopt it. Where violence occurs, its advocates argue, it is because imperfect communication has occurred where empathy and compassion have been missing. Therefore, by adopting NVC, people will be able to turn potentially confrontational situations into ones which can be remedied rather than escalating to conflict. At its heart is the call for more effective communication strategies which highlight shared needs and the need for greater social cohesion.

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Who developed non-violent communication?

Although some of the ideas behind non-violent communication have their roots further back in history, the mainstay on NVC was developed in the 1960s by proponents such as Marshall Rosenberg. Born in 1934, Rosenberg is an American mediator, teacher and psychologist. As a child, Rosenberg suffered from violence and, following his training in psychology as a young man, he began to develop ideas that would put communication at heart of methods for allowing people to avoid violent interactions with one another. Much of his early work dealt with how to prevent conflict in schools, but it soon went further into how adults, organisations and even countries deal with one another.

Why is non-violent communication important?

To some people, non-violent communication is simply a tool or a systemic approach to communication that means violent episodes between individuals can be avoided. However, others find that NVC has a spiritual dimension because it is based upon a set of values that might be shared by many religious and spiritual people. Its importance lies in the fact that it can be utilised in so many situations to lessen the likelihood of conflict. It can be used as a mediation tool between two or more parties that have got upset with one another. To some, it is a social tool that will help societies to become more cohesive. There again, it can also form a world view that could – in theory, at least – help to eliminate violence across the planet.

How can you practise non-violent communication?

Most people who practise non-violent communication have been trained in it. The basics of the training in NVC include several working assumptions. For example, one is that a practitioner of NVC must accept that all human beings share the same basic needs. Another is that emotions point to human needs that are either being met or not met, depending on the sort of feeling that is being expressed. In order to practice NVC, it is necessary to have self-compassion, to express emotions from the heart and to take responsibility for our own feelings.

What research into non-violent communication is there?

The Center for Nonviolent Communication conducts plenty of research into NVC as well as promoting it. Studies vary, but an important one from 2014 found that when non-violent communication training was combined with mindfulness among US prisoners, re-offending rates dropped significantly.

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